Toby Storie-Pugh: heading back to Everest and walking the Congo

TOBY STORIE-PUGH is an adventurer with a unique mind and a passion to change inequalities around the world. Here he speaks to us about his attempts to climb Everest and his plan to walk the Congo River this year.




TOBY STORIE-PUGH is an explorer who combines his drive for adventure with a desire to have a positive effect on the world.


Last year he attempted to summit Mount Everest with a team which included Steve Obbayi, the first Kenyan to attempt the to reach the peak of the mountain. The expedition failed following an avalanche on April 18 but the pair will return this year for a second attempt. Later this year he will lead the world’s first effort to walk the 2,920 mile length of the Congo River.


In this interview Toby spoke to us about the mammoth challenges he has set himself for 2015 as well as where his inspiration comes from.


His words and passion for the world will inspire you and his remarkable inner strength leave you with a lasting thirst for the positive impact he wants to have.



You are know for leading world class expeditions that are leveraged to create significant and sustainable social impact. Could you give us some more information about the expeditions and the ideas and efforts behind them?


Expeditions start with the desire to challenge myself, put myself in situations that will force me to learn about what capacities I really have. Expeditions are what I do well, and where I believe I can be my very best.


So the question was, ‘How do I do what I do well, but have the social impact that I need to have’. Answer is to partner with others, do what I do well, let them do what they do well.


For Congo, working with the charity Right to Play, I will be an Athlete Ambassador and we will create a campaign to run during 2016 that will highlight the great work they are doing in Africa.


My goal for the Congo expedition is to provide a good narrative hook that will allow RTP to expand awareness of its programmes, raise additional funds and ultimately serve more people.




Could you give us some background on the Kenyan Everest Expedition and do you plan to give it a second attempt?


I decided in 2011 that I wanted to climb Everest and then discovered that there had never been a Kenyan attempt on the mountain. I ran a selection course and found a great climber and ambassador, Steve Obbayi.


I wanted to use the expedition to raise awareness about the programmes at Flying Kites Leadership Academy and more broadly provide a platform for Steve to use to inspire his fellow Kenyans.


The first attempt was in 2014 but we were knocked off after the April 18 avalanche. We will be heading back more determined than ever. I never questioned whether we would return. I knew immediately we would keep hammering away at it until we win.




This year you will also attempt to walk the length of the Congo River. How are preparations for the expedition going and what made you want to take on this challenge?


Preparations going really well. Know the route and will spend the next three months raising the funds for the expedition. I has been a detailed route planning and the expedition-specific training will begin in July.


We will spend a month (minimum) in Kinshasa in the autumn seeking the permits and patronage we need to navigate the dense bureaucracy that will meet us along the route.


What motivates you to take on these challenges and how does your passion for adventure fit around other aspects of your life?


Just the need to test myself. Come home, be at peace having gone through a visceral and transformative experience. Earn that cup of tea!


Other aspects fit around the adventure. Most things have been put on hold; kids, relationships etc.


Cannot be done indefinitely, but have committed so long, any internal debate and tussle is long over.


I hope with the Congo expedition to finally find a sustainable way of life. I believe that only in adversity can you find the best of yourself, and that in overcoming challenges that scare and test you, you can find inner peace and a priceless sense of equilibrium.


What have the highest and lowest points of your story so far been?


Lowest: the two years after I was rejected from the British Army following a failed medical. Having had no other career in mind since 12 years old, I had no idea how to regroup from that. I had no vision for what would fill that gap.


However, the silver lining to that episode was that it provided an insight into what a life of disappointment might look like and it has provided me with a drive to action that has never flagged.


Highest: check back with me on June 1. If Steve and I both summit Everest, the drinks are on me.




If you could sum up the message you want to send out to the world what would it be?


My key message: make an honest assessment of what it is that drives you, and direct your actions based on that assessment. Take into account other people’s views, but have the confidence to trust your own instincts. Know when to carefully plan but recognise that, sometimes, you just to have act and trust that momentum will build direction: Ready, Fire, Aim!


Try to manifest an adventurous and committed spirit in your own life. This does not mean having to set out to walk thousands of miles through the African bush. I think it is about committing to a core set of values inquisitiveness, determination, humility, kindness etc and using them to guide you in life.

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